Brandon Morrow came within one out of pitching a no-hitter, but even more impressive than his brush with immortality was the dominance he exhibited along the way. Had Aaron Hill been able to coral Evan Longoria’s groundball that squirted into right field, Morrow would have recorded the second highest strikeout total (16) in a no hitter. The record of 17 was set by Nolan Ryan when he not hit the Detroit Tigers on July 15, 1973.
Despite being denied a no hitter or a place in the record book, Morrow still turned in a historically impressive outing. For perspective, Morrow’s performance against the Rays registered a Game Score of 100, a level reached only 18 times since the height of mound was lowered to 10 inches in 1969. If you remove extra inning games from the equation (it’s not Morrow’s fault that his team was able to score a run), the number of performances with a Game Score of at least 100 is whittled down to only seven (or nine, if you extend the timeline back to 1920), with only Nolan Ryan’s no-hitter against the Blue Jays on May 1, 1991 (101) and Kerry Wood’s 20 strikeout game against the Astros on May 6, 1998 (105) being higher.
Highest Recorded Game Scores, Nine Inning Games Since 1920
Had Brandon Morrow been able to secure the last out, it would have been the sixth no-hitter of the season (really the seventh if you include Armando Galarraga’s “should be” perfect game). Even with the one blemish, the game still topped all others thrown this season and increased the number of performances with a Game Score over 90 to 16. With just under one-third of the season still left to play, that total would rank as the most since 2002. If pro-rated to a season total of 22, only five other seasons since 1969 would rank higher than 2010 in terms of starting performances with a game score higher than 90.
Top-10 Seasons Since 1969 (Game Score >90)
Because of the proliferation of no-hitters and the all around improvement in pitching statistics, 2010 has been dubbed by many as the new “Year of the Pitcher”. There are countless theories being put forth as to why pitching has been more dominant, but regardless of which one you subscribe to, it does seem as if the pendulum has swung back toward the pitcher. In the American League, the combined ERA of 4.18 is the lowest figure since the 3.95 rate recorded in 1992. The same trends holds in the National League (albeit on a lesser scale), where this year’s ERA of 4.11 ranks as the lowest since the 4.05 rate posted in 1993. Both the NL and the AL are also in the process of compiling their highest strikeout rates ever at 7.18 K/9IP and 6.8 K/9IP, respectively. Once the season is over, the level of pitching dominance can better be put into its proper context, but in the meantime, it sure has been exciting to watch.